27 March 2007

Emotions? Sure. We got 'em. . .

by Phil Johnson

y cessationist convictions are no secret, although I have tried hard to stay out of debates about that subject here. But to reiterate: I don't believe the charismata are functioning today in any way that looks remotely like the apostolic gifts described in the New Testament. Benny Hinn's "miracles" don't bear the slightest resemblance to apostolic signs and wonders.

I consider cessationism a secondary issue, however, and it's certainly not something I'm interested in arguing about ad infinitum. So it's not a matter we like to bring up deliberately here on the blog. Carefully check the archives of this blog and its predecessor, and you will discover that when the subject comes up, it's usually at the prompting of our charismatic antagonists.

Like yesterday.

Nevertheless, I've been accused at times of "charismatic-bating." Truthfully, I think all of us Pyros would really prefer to steer clear of the issue completely (including Dan, if the facts were known), but it seems we can't even post on tangentially related topics without having charismatics crawling out of the woodwork spoiling for a fight. Even then, we do try hard not to be "shrill" about this subject. We love our charismatic friends—especially those who share our love for Scripture and sound doctrine.

As a matter of fact, last week within hours after John Piper posted his essay "The Morning I Heard the Voice of God," I linked to it in my "Where I am Right Now" column with this notation: "John Piper heard God speak! And I know this is true, because I got the same message!"

Frank Turk likewise linked to Piper's article a few hours later, as an addendum to last Wednesday's post, with a "Must Read" notation.

Later that evening, the esteemed Brit-blogger Dr. Adrian Warnock wrote to challenge us to respond to Piper's article. I assumed he had not noticed our links, and I pointed out that we had already double-linked the article with positive notices. Not satisfied, Dr. Warnock wrote to urge us to undertake a fuller dissection of the article and reply to his thoughts about it.

I was about to decline politely when Frank said he would take the assignment. Two or three days ago, Frank posted his draft in a secret place where Dan and I could preview it, proofread it, and make suggestions. We all agreed on the perspective Frank's article expressed. I especially thought he had done a good job (certainly a better job than I would have) at not sounding "shrill."

So much for good intentions.

So, since we've already ruffled charismatic feathers again, I thought I'd make this one more post with a personal perspective on the "cessationist" issue, and then I'm through. I really don't want to have to deal with this issue again every other month. It's not a new issue for me. I've studied it very thoroughly, and my position hasn't changed for more than 30 years, even though I've heard all the arguments and read all the books on the issue (and even edited some of them).

I want to give a word of personal testimony about why my position is so firm.

But first, here's some background material for those coming to this debate fresh:

Other Key Posts Where I have Dealt (usually under duress) With the Cessationism Issue

Now, here's why (even though I liked that article last week) I disagree with John Piper regarding the "gift of prophecy":

Piper's view is that New Testament "prophecy" is "prompted and sustained by the Holy Spirit and yet is fallible." (See Frank Turk's discussion of this issue at his blog yesterday.) That is essentially the same view defended by Wayne Grudem in The Gift of Prophecy in the New Testament and Today.

Quite simply, the view contradicts Deuteronomy 18:21-22 "And if you say in your heart, 'How shall we know the word which the LORD has not spoken?'; when a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him."

I don't see anywhere in the New Testament where that principle was ever rescinded. Rather, the faithfulness and truthfulness of God is everywhere stressed in the New Testament (e.g., John 3:32-33; 1 Corinthians 1:9; etc.). The novel view of Piper and Grudem on New Testament Prophecy encourages people to claim God has spoken when He has not, and that in turn, tempts people to trust in a lie (cf. Jeremiah 28:15; 29:31).

No doubt some will find that judgment "shrill." I'm sorry for those who feel that way, but the issues are serious and in real life those very kinds of lies often deceive, disappoint, and even destroy people.

Why debating this issue is not a game to me

I grew up in Tulsa, practically within walking distance of Oral Roberts University, close to the headquarters of Kenneth Hagin—and surrounded by pentecostal and charismatic churches on almost every corner. My best friend from grade seven through high school was Bil, whose father was an old-line pentecostal faith-healing evangelist. Bil's dad was very well known in Pentecostal circles. He held massive healing meetings in places across Asia. I saw photographs of the meetings, and Bil's father's healing crusades drew people in the tens of thousands.

Of course, Bil himself was a committed devotee of the charismata. From the time I met him (when I was 12 years old) through my first year in college, he tried repeatedly to get me to speak in tongues. Unfortunately, he neglected to confront me with the claims of the gospel first, but I did ultimately discover enough truth in Scripture to be converted (at age 17).

When I finally did come to a saving knowledge of Christ, Bil cornered me and told me he was sure I was now finally ready to speak in tongues. He explained that I needed to seek the baptism of the Holy Spirit and attempt to speak in tongues, and he solemnly cautioned me I that would never truly be liberated from sin or spiritually empowered to serve the Lord until I received the true sign of the Spirit's fullness: tongues.

That's how, after my conversion, Bil tackled the task of turning me into a charismatic with new enthusiasm. He regularly urged me to seek the gift of tongues (I did); he walked me through all the Bible verses that referred to the gift of tongues (I studied them carefully); he took me to his church (where I witnessed glossolalia for the first time). I trusted him completely and didn't really resist anything he was telling me.

We were close friends, and all the years I knew him, he was generally a good influence on me. He seemed to believe the Bible implicitly, and he knew enough truth to avoid all the worst sins of youth. Having a close friend like him had preserved me from much of the peer pressure that caused many young people my age to flirt with all the sins that were in vogue in the late sixties and early seventies. So I was completely open to his spiritual advice as a new Christian.

But then sometime after my first year in college, I heard Bil's father was seriously ill. Bil's dad was still a relatively young man (younger than I am now) but he contracted a kind of cancer that led to a lingering, painful death. His suffering was ghastly, and the final months of his life were agonizing for the whole family. They were unable to grieve and unwilling even to say their goodbyes, believing they could not acknowledge in any way that he was really dying. They had to make a "positive confession," insisting to one another that he was being healed, and claiming every conceivable hint of improvement as a sign of total healing.

But Bil's father's pain never really abated until the cancer finally took his life.

Bil was devastated, and in the months and years that followed, he lost his faith completely. My last conversation with Bil occurred a few years ago, one day when I was about to board an overseas flight. I was traveling to a part of Asia where Bil had lived in the years when his father was ministering there, and I wanted to let him know I had not forgotten him and was still praying for him. At the mention of prayer, his voice almost went cold. He told me he had virtually given up every vestige of his earlier faith.

A couple of years ago I received a newspaper clipping with an obituary saying that Bil himself had died of heart failure. Whether he ever came to authentic faith in Christ and confidence in the truth of Scripture, I don't know.

I'm convinced Bil's faith failed in the first place because it was never true faith at all. It was sheer gullibility, cultivated in a religious culture where people are systematically and relentlessly exhorted to claim "healings" that contradict all medical evidence; to fake or imagine "miracles" that are no such thing; and to regard mental impressions and carnal intuition as "prophecy" from God. All of that is based on serious misunderstandings of Scripture, ignorance of the real purpose of God in sanctification, and unpardonable neglect of the lessons of church history.

The "modern prophecy" doctrine justifies what in my view is the most dangerous aspect of the whole charismatic belief system. It dignifies amateur prognostication with the title of "prophecy" and teaches people that imaginary messages in their heads might actually be revelation from the Holy Spirit and yet fallible at the same time.

That kind of doctrine I utterly and emphatically deplore.

Phil's signature


Robert Ivy said...


I appreciate your strong and clear words on the subject. I wish that we continuationists were up to hearing more harsh language - it is certainly warranted.

But just to make clear for less experienced readers, there are charismatics who do not believe that prophecy can be fallible and have very high standards for judging whether or not something is prophecy, and still hold Scripture supreme.

Concerning the experience of your friend (and many others) I think the reason for their disillusion is not because of "da gifts" but because of wrong theology concerning the gifts. (Like prophecy is fallible or God will always heal with enough faith).

So to me, the message is (and always has been) lets make sure that our charismatic gifts are like what the Bible describes supported by robust Biblical theology. If they are not, let us not accept them and continue to study the Bible and pursue the gifts until they do meet all Biblical criteria, lest we settle for less and later think it a lie.

Adrian Warnock said...


Thanks for sharing. Well there we have it. Sadly, I fear that for BOTH sides of the fence our conclusions on this matter are significantly influenced by our experiences rather than exclusively by the scriptures.

That is not to say that folks on both sides of the fence genuinely believe we are being led by the scriptures on this issue. Bill's story is tragic and can be repeated over and over again. But, it doesn’t prove the point any more than the stories that I have seen of charismatic churches that do not "over-egg the pudding" as it were.

I am so not into faking, or lying about health, or emotional manipulation, or excessive emphasis on finances or any of the myriads of other reprehensible things that happen.

But I do believe even about my own experiences of God that as in the words of a song we sung on Sunday at Jubilee "there must be more than this!"

I am not sure if there is a real way forward from here that can lead to total agreement by all sides. But I hope that we can - at least the sane moderate ones of us - agree to agree on the key points of the bible, and respect each others points of view on some of these debatable issues.

Also, one more thing. In my system, it is not God that drops fallible impressions in our minds, rather that we do not always distinguish the source of a thought accurately. Thus an impression could come from God, the devil, or as I put it "too much cheese."

I treat such impressions with a good degree of caution and suspicion. Almost as if I have a sentry in my mind saying "halt who goes there!" It is of course the scriptures that are the primary way I distinguish whether a given thought is Godly or not. Oddly enough, I suspect that a similar process occurs for those who don’t believe in "impressions" as such where thoughts are interrogated as to whether they are consistent with godly living according to the scriptures or not.

Sometimes I wonder if this debate really matters at all. Other times I think it is the most critical one facing us. Certainly I am equally worried about the extremes of both positions. Crazy charismatics bring disgrace on the whole church of Christ. Overly-intellectually driven cessationsts who do not experience God at all risk having "a form of Godliness but denying its power"

Truce everybody?

FX Turk said...

Robert: If you are one of those people, could you please give us an example of such a modern-day prophecy?

Dr. Warnock:

I refer you to my original post this week in which i said, "I don't much enjoy the cessationist/continualist discussion -- not just here at TeamPyro, but wherever it springs up."

Brad said...


I too grew up in Tulsa, graduating high school in the late 60's and college in the 70's. I still live there. So I've seen your story played out many times.

But, like Adrian, I also know many balanced and scriptually focused charismatics who do not engage in such nonsense.

You need to keep separated the Word of Faith and the basic Charismatic movements. The WOF is, to me, an abberrant branch of the Charismatic movement. Unfortunately, if you grew up in Tulsa, you were exposed to a huge percentage of Charismatics who were also WOF folks (or who were just going through their WOF stage).

That's not to say you don't have genuine biblical objections to continuationists. But I just wanted to comment on the "experience" part of your position.


DJP said...

I'm just wondering: has anyone ever met a Charismatic who has said, "I am an unbalanced, non-sane, and extremist Charismatic, the Bible be dashed"?

Lee Shelton said...

DJP: I'm just wondering: has anyone ever met a Charismatic who has said, "I am an unbalanced, non-sane, and extremist Charismatic, the Bible be dashed"?

No. But then again I've also never heard a politician admit to being a lying, manipulative, power-hungry control freak who has no regard for the Constitution or the rule of law.

Jerry Wragg said...

Why have I never even imagined that "there must be more"?

More than the Spirit empowering me to overcome sin? More than a Spirit-driven brokenness, confession, and a cleansed conscience? More than growing Christ-likeness in and through this pathetic earthen vessel? More than a joy-filled weeping at every illuminated truth of my redemption?

If there's more...I'm probably already on that path! If the "more" I'm seeking is my human evaluation of internal sensations of walking with God, then I'd rather have what the Spirit truly says He produces, and jettison any opinion my finite heart and mind might bring to the table.

Mrs Pilgrim said...

Phil writes, "That kind of doctrine I utterly and emphatically deplore."

Yes, me too. I agree, Benny Hinn's antics look nothing like the gifts of the New Testament.

I'm also with Robert.

Incidentally, because I'm perhaps bumbling in where I don't fully comprehend the issue...What mean we by "prophecy"? I might have an example, but I want to make sure it fits.

If you want to say "prophecy" is only a special revelation of future events, then I might not. But I've seen different definitions. To which are we holding?

Brad said...

"I'm just wondering: has anyone ever met a Charismatic who has said, "I am an unbalanced, non-sane, and extremist Charismatic, the Bible be dashed"?"


It seems you may be responding to my comments. My comments were not based upon some people I've "met." Nor is it based upon a few folks I've merely talked to. It is based upon a lifetime of living in a Tulsa culture infused with charismatic (big picture) and WOF (smaller picture) folks. It is based upon a lifetime of watching charismatic friends deal with horrendous life problems, with faith, humility and acceptance.

So, yes, I've seen the bad things (that Phil describes) and I've also seen the positive things. I did all this by living with these folks. It's the difference between dealing in charictures and dealing with people.


Nauvoo Pastor said...


Great post!! This issue is one that has tragically divided the church and created splinters that will never be recovered. I appreciate your careful and prayerful wording and the humility in which it is given. Unfortunately there will be those who will snipe at what you have said and belittle this article.

As for myself? I am a cessationist. And I want to thank you for the great example you are to believers.

donsands said...

"We love our charismatic friends—especially those who share our love for Scripture and sound doctrine."


I also agree that there are no evidences of the gifts in the world today as they were during the Apostles time of establishing the foundation of the Church, which our Lord is building.

Do we see anything like this today:
"Now Peter and John went up together into the temple at the hour of prayer, the nineth hour.
And a certain man lame from birth was carried and laid daily at the gate of the temple, to ask for alms from those who entered the temple.
Who seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple asked for alms.
And Peter, fixing his eyes upon him with John, said, Look at us.
And he expected to receive some alms.
Then Peter said, Silver and gold I have not; but such as I have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk.
And he took him by the right hand, and lifted him up: and immediately his feet and ancle bones received strength." Acts 3:1-7 from Dr. Luke.

I would of course love to see God work miracles like this, but I don't need to. I believe that this one happened.

Changed By Grace said...

Great article Phil. I agree one hundred percent. I too was led to Jesus by a charismatic friend who later abandoned the faith but for my story he did come back. Praise God! I did all those things too but the more I studied Scripture and church history, I came to the conclusion that these gifts ceased. In addition to church history, I would have to say that the strongest verse in the NT is 1 Corinthians 13:8 where the word "cease" (pauo) is in the middle voice which means that it will cease on it's own where prophecy and knowledge needs the perfect thing to appear for it to stop. I don't hear much taught on this verse. A recent article by John Piper hints at the verse but never addresses the word "cease." I think it would be great to make some comment on this or even post from John MacArthur's commentary on this verse. It sheds so much light. Thanks again for the article!

wordsmith said...

Thanks for the post, Phil. Truly, the fallout from charismatic nonsense is far greater than most realize. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.

Solameanie said...

Heartbreaking. Simply heartbreaking, and how many times have I seen similar circumstances over the years? Many too many.

Anonymous said...


Thank you for your insightful and personal post. I can echo much of what you shared, having spent almost ten years in a charismatic church myself. I saw friends fall away faith because they'd embraced a toxic interpretation of Scripture. I would submit that faulty handling of Scripture and tragic outcomes, as was the case with your friend and his father, are not reason enough to embrace a cessationist view. If we embrace the gifts, we must also wholly embrace the Scripture which speaks of them.

Thank you, Team Pyro, for all you do. You're a daily blessing.


Robert Ivy said...


I don't have any examples of such modern day prophecy, but that doesn't bother me because my argument is one from Scripture not from experience.

I indeed think that the gifts are at a low-ebb these days, but that does not mean they have ceased.

CuriousSaint said...

If someone you knew claimed to hear words much like Piper heard, but not be a quotation of scripture, what would be your first reaction to that claim?

Connie said...

Thanks Phil, your's is a voice that I greatly appreciate on this matter. As one who still lives in the charismatic mecca (Tulsa), the fall-out of basic charismatic theology (with or without the WOF influence) is seen daily through my involvement with other homeschool moms/families, store clerks, etc.

It deeply grieves me that often God is misrepresented by so many people because of charismatic theology. I cannot remain silent as God's character is attacked, brought into question, misrepresented, and twisted in order to fit man's own desires and consequent actions.

I DO consider many charismatics to be sisters/brothers, but long for them to embrace Biblical theology rather than a man-centered substitute.

Steve said...

Adrian wrote: Sadly, I fear that for BOTH sides of the fence our conclusions on this matter are significantly influenced by our experiences rather than exclusively by the scriptures.

I should let Phil respond to this, but I think you've made a wrong assumption here, Adrian. Seems you're thinking that Phil's conclusion on this matter was influenced by what happened to Bill and his father.

But if I understand Phil's post correctly, his conclusion on the matter of gifts is thoroughly based on a study of Scripture. Phil shared the story about Bill solely to demonstrate the dangerous results that can occur when one is firmly locked into certain continuationist perspectives regarding miracles, healings, and God's supposed wishes for us.

DJP wrote: I'm just wondering: has anyone ever met a Charismatic who has said, "I am an unbalanced, non-sane, and extremist Charismatic, the Bible be dashed"?

Well, this might come close. Back when I was a student at CSUN and attended Grace Community Church, I knew a number of people from a large Pentecostal church nearby who also went to CSUN. I became fairly good friends with one of them. Three years into our friendship, one day we were comparing notes about the differences between our churches, and in an unexpected moment of transparency and somberness, my friend said, "Everyone I've met from Grace knows the Word well and is rock solid in the faith. Too many of the people at our church don't know the Word as well as they should, and we live from emotional experience to emotional experience."

I was stunned to hear that, and the friend didn't say much more. He was clearly disillusioned, and I sensed he didn't want to talk about it. So I closed the conversation with a gentle encouragement toward getting to know the Word better.

Phil Johnson said...

Thanks, Steve. I was just logging on to make this point when your comment posted.

My views on cessationism are not rooted in mine or my friend's experience. I came to a cessationist position through the study of Scripture before my friend's father died. Above, I cited some of the biblical reasons why we shouldn't equate today's charismatic "experiences" with the gifts described in the New Testament. There is no resemblance between the two kinds of phenomena. If you read with comprehension the New Testament descriptions of the apostolic gifts, there is no way you can equate them with what's happening in even the best of charismatic circles today. (Unless, of course, you mix in a whole lot of subtle shading of the truth and willful naivete.)

Perhaps I'll elaborate on this in a follow-up post this afternoon, because I wouldn't want our charismatic brethren to miss that point.

The reason I recounted Bil's story is (as the subheading in the blogpost suggests) to explain why debating this issue is not a game to me. If someone reads this post and seriously tries to make claim that an experience" is the real foundation of my opinions on this subject, that person has completely missed the point and ought to read the whole post again, carefully this time.

Yankeerev said...

Phil, et all...

I was privileged to grow up in a very loving and active charismatic home that took us from Israel, Germany, England and finally the USA. Wherever my parents landed (father worked for British Airways) we were actively involved in a number of churches. I have grown up watching both the carnal side and the spritual side of the movement. I have had men gather around me, put hands on me so that I woudl recieve the gift of tongues...but something in me (must be the voice of God in my head :0)) was not settled. As I read the Word I struggled with all that was in 1 Cor. 14 and asked those around me why we didn't follow those very clear instructions. The answer I got was vs. 2 - "we speak mysteries". So, there it was, a personal fuzzy prayer language that was the loophole for not following the rest of the chapter.

I never did speak in tongues, but I did begin to study the Word. I found help from others who were explaining it in its context, etc. and finally left the church -- which was not easy as my father was now the pastor.

Now he is a man of God, who even in his retirement is preaching three times a week in a little church in the hills of Georgia. He has been buffeted by the waves of Charismata and been an eager opponent of the Word Faith, Benny Hinn style ministries. Yet, he was extremely intrigued with the "blessings" in both Toronto and Pensacola.

So, Phil...I know where you are coming from. I have searched those same Scriptures. I have endured Jack Deere books for Christmas and Birthdays. I have faced family memebers pointing fingers in my face telling me that I am offending the Holy Spirit by not recognizing the Charismata. I have been the black sheep of the family because I hold to a Reformed Soteriology and am a practicing joyful, Holy Spirit driven cessationist.

Having said all that, I too love my non-cessationist friends...and for me that includes my family and a father who is a faithful shepherd of His sheep.

Just my two cents...


Rhology said...

I owe much to my 'spiritual father' who was a crazy Hell Fighter from Higher D in Tulsa. He hung out w/ 2 other guys to whom I also owe much.

Phil's story about Bil makes me shudder, and it grieves me. How many of my own friends were vulnerable to the enemy's lies b/c they were more interested in these spectacular experiences rather than the meat of the Word?

Unknown said...

There is a new book out by Kenneth Berding titled "What Are Spiritual Gifts: Rethinking the Conventional View." As far as I can tell this book does not specifically address the continuation/cessationist debate. However, he propose a thesis that "spiritual gifts" in Scripture should not be interpreted as refering to "special abilities" but rather should be viewed as the ministries themselves (i.e. "spiritual ministries"). In other words, in 1 Cor. 12; Rom. 12 and Eph 4 Paul is not referring to unique abilities that each member in the body has been given by the Spirit but is referring to the specific ministries to which the Holy Spirit assigns members for the edification of the body. Therefore, the question each believer needs to ask is not "what special abilitiy has the Holy Spirit given me?" but rather, "to what area of ministry has the Holy Spirit called me to serve in (short term or long term)?"
I won't try to summarize his argument anymore, but I do find it exegetically compelling (so far). I do believe that this paradigm shift can help to bring some mediation to the cessationist/continuation debate.

Just a thought.

m. godshall

Matthew H. said...


I would of course love to see God work miracles like this, but I don't need to. I believe that this one happened.

Amen. That's exactly how I feel about it.


Touchstone said...


Doesn't this just amount to so much more "doubt glorification" on your part, regarding charismata?

You say there's no "evidence" on which to rely concerning charismatic accounts of events and gift manifestations that *are* right out of Acts in their nature and scope. But how do you discount charismatic claims, Phil? Whence your skepticism, here?

And how do hand that very same skepticism when leveled at your convictions, about cessationalism or other theological propositions?

Also, I realized you've begged off on the story of Bil as normative for you views on this, and I accept that at face value, and your appeals to exegesis as the foundation of your position. But if so, the whole Bil story seems a large, emotional diversion, then.

In any case, it's worth noting the skepticism you wield here -- skepticism that demands physical, testable proof (and should!) -- yet is something you inveigh against regularly when inbound at *your* unverifiable, subjective certainties. When one takes the epistemological position you do, I say that gives you little ground to make the case you're offering here.

(For the record, I take as dim a view of charismatic claims as you do, Phil, and probably more. Although I can bear witness to events I can't prove, or recreate that definitely leave me open to the plausibility of such claims. I just don't have the right amount or kind of "faith" to be certain in this area, I suppose.)


Phil Johnson said...


I've never suggested that all varieties of skepticism are evil. In fact, I have inveighed against blind credulity almost as much and as regularly as I have condemned the kind of stubborn skepticism that is so often cloaked in Emerging or postmodern garb.

But, for the record (and in case someone else has missed the point as badly as you have), the one and only kind of skepticism I have claimed is incompatible with authentic Christianity is doubt about the truthfulness and authority of God's Word. If you want to indulge in other kinds of skepticism, have at it, and I won't criticize you.

For example, I myself am overwhelmingly and unapologetically skeptical of anything and everything written by people who want to claim they are Christians and yet deny that Scripture is the inerrant and authoritative Word of God. (I'm convinced Jesus was referring to just such people when He spoke of wolves in sheep's clothing.) Skepticism that holds them and their teaching in high suspicion is one kind of skepticism that I think should be aggressively cultivated.

Lots of charismatics would agree with me about that, BTW.

So the epistemology discussion is really off topic in this particular thread. Let's keep rule 3 in mind, please.

Seth McBee said...

I am not going to enter into this "debate" but I will say that I believe most of the extreme charismatics and those who profess cessationalists don't believe in miracles comes from a downplay of the miraculous display of bringing a dead person to spiritual life in salvation.

The power of the Gospel is truly shown through this, but it has become like a tree. Since we see a tree everyday we forget how much of a miracle of God that tree truly is.

I believe this plays a part in the life of someone who is "continuing to look for miracles" instead of seeing those that happen around them everyday...

babies being born, oxygen, creation...the fullness of God's riches on display...

If we only knew how miraculous all these things were I believe we would stand more in awe than we do. And moreso, we wouldn't stand at all, but fall to our face in fear of our wonderful God as Isaiah did in Isaiah 6.

May God be glorified.

FX Turk said...


Let me make sure we cover this fully.

What you're saying that the Holy Spirit manifests the Gifts of the Apostles still today -- but you've never seen that actually happen. That is, there are no examples of your doctrine in action, but it must be true becuase Scripture says that the gifts will be manifest today -- that is, in the post-apostolic, post-enscripturating age.

Dude: that's exactly like saying I believe the Holy Spirit saves men through regeneration -- but I don't know anyone who's regenerate.

Touchstone said...


I understand your "rule 3" concerns. However, your latest reply neatly encapsulates the very problem evinced in this post. (I suppose I could wait, and refer to this post in some future post of yours on epistemology, but I'd be in similar "rule 3" danger then to, just from the opposite side of the fence).

Your "clarification" was precisely what I had in mind when making my comments, which you claim to have "missed the point". Rather, I was stressing that you have "certainties" that arbitrary (in objective terms) and off limits -- it's simply a brute fact that you won't suffer analysis on.

Fine, but that's precisely the position of many charismatics I know. They simply can't "prove" their charisms any more than you or I can "prove" your notions of inerrancy.

I didn't suppose that you were against *all* skepticism -- that's a hard position to even contemplate. Instead, I was trying to note that you are going off on charismatic "certainties" in exactly the same way that exasperates you when others come after *your* particular certainties.

That observation "straddles" the previous post and this one, so it fits neatly in neither.

But it's a point worth making, all the same.


Baus said...

Your readers may benefit from this compilation of cessationist argument:

Robert Ivy said...

Hi Cent,

This is sorta new... interacting across two blog posts. It's good though, I like it.

I think you mischaracterize the the continuationist (or at least my) position when you say that we claim that, "Scripture says that the gifts will be manifest today."

Scripture never promises that the gifts simply will be manifest carte blanche. Just like regeneration is not promised carte blanche.

Regeneration is promised when there is hearing of the word with faith. Just as the gifts are promised when there is diligent pursuit and the filling of the Spirit.

We should not expect to see regeneration when there is no preaching of the word, just as we should not expect to see gifts where there is no seeking of them.

Hope that helps to progress the discussion...

LeeC said...

I just don't understand how someone could want more than having themselves made new and being given Gods will suficiently revealed in Scripture.

We've been given the "sign of Jonah" and we want something more????

I find it highly offensive to have people unsolicitedly tell me that Gods taking me from a dead man and making me alive, and changing my very being is somehow paltry. Not to mention being told that God is not able to put His will for our lives fully into Scripture whilst also accusing me of trying to limit God.

Something more?

"there are charismatics who do not believe that prophecy can be fallible"

Then how would that not be new revelation, and hence to be Scripture?

Adjutorium said...

R. C. Sproul spoke in "tongues" once, I don't know if he still does:

Zeal Without Knowledge

Has anyone read the above article?

Even though I spent my first few formative years as a Christian in Pentecostal churches, with tongues speaking and slain in the spirit stuff going on(people being pushed over more than anything else) so on and so forth, I agree with Mr. Sproul.

R. C. and John Piper would probably have an interesting chat regarding hearing the voice of God:

Do you believe that God has audibly spoken to anyone since the apostolic age?

I believe God speaks clearly through His word. We do not need any extra-biblical revelations to understand what God requires of us. We need preachers and teachers who expound sound doctrine for us and explaining the meaning of Scripture. Generally, Pentecostalism and charismaticism does not do that.

Matthew Celestine said...

Good stuff.

I used to believe in Charismatic prophecy and Wayne Grudem's systematic theology encouraged me in that course. But I came to realise that the Charismatic belief in new revelation is very dangerous.

Every Blessing in Christ


Robert Ivy said...


If you, "don't understand how someone could want more than having themselves made new and being given Gods will sufficiently revealed in Scripture," then that is a question to take up with Paul in 1 Cor 14:1, 18, 39. He was made new and had even more mysteries revealed to him than what he wrote down in Scripture, yet he still saw benefit in things like prophecy and tongues and commanded others to pursue them and trained other in how to use them.

I never said regeneration was paltry, all I am trying to do is be faithful to all Biblical texts. As Spurgeon said in a post just a week or two ago, "We are not to indulge in prophesyings as some do, making them our spiritual food, our meat and drink; but still we may take them as choice morsels, and special delicacies set upon the table; they are condiments which may often give a sweeter taste."

I've dealt with the issue of inerrant prophecy not being Scripture elsewhere. For this comment, let me just say my position is the clearest possible combination of 1 Cor 14:37, Deut 18:21-22, and 2 Pet 1:21. Prophecy, while inerrant, must submit always to the Holy Scriptures.

joey said...


thanks for addressing this issue. I appreciate your honest, clear-thinking arguments.

A couple thoughts I had after reading the article and this comment thread;

The story of Bil is an excellent example of why this is an issue that often gets "shrill" responses on both sides. People's lives are very affected by this issue.

However, and Phil has made this clear...experience is not to be held anywhere near the esteem of Scripture. Both sides could endlessly cite story after story, personal experiences, family histories etc, to support their position. And it wouldn't help because the cessationists would (a)point out how the story wasn't really an example of a biblical (as they understand it) gift in operation or (b)question that the event happened. This leaves the cessationist with an argument that, when argued against via experience, is unfalsifiable.
On the other hand, someone who has experienced something that can only be explained as a manifestation of a gift of the Spirit is also in an position of holding an unfalsifiable belief. So hearing of experiences of others is never going to be a convincing argument.

Scripture must inform our experience. Scripture must be the measure of all these matters. And it is.

Mrs Pilgrim said...

Well, if nobody's going to help me out here with what you mean by "prophecy," I guess I'll be on my way.

Nice to know that you were interested in my possible example.

Yes, I'm a little nettled here. I ask a legitimate question and nobody seems to care. Perhaps I should just move along.

Robert Ivy said...

Mrs. Pilgrim,

Sorry you feel nettled. It's just a difficult thing to do to give a "definition" when almost any definition given is likely to come under the gun by either side.

Personally, as a continuationist, I would define prophecy as a divinely inspired message from God that reveals the future in a way meant to strengthen or rebuke a specific person or group of people in the context of a specific time.

I know that's a little dense and would probably require some unpacking for a person to fully get it, but given prophecy in Scripture and what is said about it, that's the view that makes the most sense.

Of course, the disagreement will come over words like, "reveals the future," "specific person or group of people," and "specific time."

But nevertheless, that is my view.

Phil Johnson said...

Prophecy: a message from God.

See rule 1.

slf said...

You said:"R. C. Sproul spoke in "tongues" once, I don't know if he still does"
Do you have any more info on this or a link? Thanks in advance!


FX Turk said...

Oh Robert:

I didn't know you were an Arminian also.

Geez. Where to start? How about this: I have left and open invite for you at my blog to have a go at the D-Blog on the subject of the apostolic gifts. We'll start there and then we'll go after you mistaken arminianism later.

Alan E. Kurschner said...

I am sure that John Piper understood what he meant by his experience in his recent article and would not want to be ambiguous.

But given that it is not clear to others what he meant due to the various intepretations on both sides, I was just wondering if anyone knows if he has clarified what he meant?

Ian said...


Just wondering, Is there anyway a Pentecostal/Charismatic could respond to this post (besides agreeing with it of course) that wouldn't be perceived as "spoilig for a fight" or labeled as "been there done that can I refer you to the archives of this blog".

If I get a green light I'll add my voie to the mix.

Adjutorium said...

Hi sf,

the link to the article by R. C. is in my post above, called; "Zeal Without Knowledge"

If the link is not working, here is the url to it:


I hope what R. C. has to say is a help.

Robert Ivy said...


I wasn't aware that requiring the preaching of the word for the purpose of salvation was an Arminian stance. I've always been under the impression that it was only hyper-Calvinists that thought people could be saved with no proclamation of the gospel. Am I wrong?

Note: I never said that preaching was not foreordained, nor did I ever say that the pursuit (or lack thereof) of the gifts was not foreordained. All things indeed flow from God's sovereign will, but God has established means by which his grace flows, just as he established means by which light shines.

(Sorry for the lame attempt at being poetic - what can I say, I'm a Spurgeon lover.)

Anyhow, I agree to debate you on the D-Blog, I'll just have to figure out how it works. Just let me know when it's on.

Thanks again - to all the Pyro's, for taking up this issue. Even though I know that each one of you loathe speaking about it. No one sharpens me more in my theology than you guys do, so thanks, and praise be to God.

Phil Johnson said...


The phrase "spoiling for a fight" is a reference to the fact that (before I had ever once even made reference to the charismatic issue on my blog) when I tried to begin a series dealing with Gothard and Blackaby (who aren't even charismatics)—in which series I hoped to talk about their odd views on private mesages from God, but not about charismatic doctrine per se—charismatic lurkers interrupted and unleashed mayhem. Hordes of charismatics who had never even commented on my blog before came all at once to the meta, demanding that I defend cessationism (which I hadn't even mentioned), claiming that if I didn't first deal with that issue, I had no right whatsoever to criticize the practice of non-charismatics who think their own dreams and imaginations regularly contain private messages from God—even though such "words of knowledge" usually go astray.

People from England to Singapore began blogging announcements that I had declared "war" on charismatic doctrine--when I hadn't even mentioned the subject. No amount of pleading from me could get the angry charismatics to back off. Every time I have tried to take up the Blackaby/Gothard issue, it has been derailed by militant charismatics who insist I can't deal with the Experiencing God phenomenon without first answering them. It's been really, seriously annoying, and if you read the posts linked above, I think you'll see what I mean.

As far as the archives are concerned, see the links above. I listed all the major posts where I have dealt with the charismatic doctrine (even peripherally).

So to answer your questions: You can say anything you like, but if you call us "shrill" just because we disagree and don't qualify or soften the disagreement to the point where it sounds like it really doesn't matter after all, we'll prolly call you on that.

And if you bring up a bunch of arguments I have already replied to in the posts listed above, you may well be referred back to the archives.

But if you think you have fresh arguments and seriously want to discuss it, bring it. Like I said, I'm not really interested in a long discussion about charismatic doctrine, so keep it succinct and don't try to get me to turn the blog into a permanent debate about cessationism. We'll prolly close the topic and move on to more profitable matters in a few days.

If that sounds like more of a yellow light than a green, you've got it.

Jim Crigler said...

Re: "[W]hen I tried to begin a series dealing with Gothard and Blackaby [...]"

⟨poignant⟩There are those of us who are still waiting for that, lo! a year and a half later. ⟨/poignant⟩

Vox Veritas said...

No one will probably ever get to read this because I have entered this post so late. Nevertheless, I feel there is a point that needs to be made here that cannot be unannounced.

I will confess that what we see in modern charismatic evangelicalism is mostly nonsensical and unbalanced. However, on the other hand I cannot deny the obvious teaching of scripture that the charismata and the gift of prophecy are in usage today.

On the issue of the N.T. gift of prophecy my biggest problem with cessationist is their insistence that it must be judged according to Deuteronomy 18:15-24. Using this as a litmus test for the gift of prophecy is inappropriate and hermeneutically inaccurate.

Here's the problem:

1. In reading verses 9-14 you will see that God was plainly instructing the Israelites not to seek guidance from diviners and soothsayers. God was commanding them to trust in Him for guidance (vs. 9-15).
2. His guidance would be provided to them through prophets from among "their brothers" and he would speak in the Name of the LORD (vs. 15-18).
3. The prophet would speak the exact words of God verbatim that would carry with them divine authority (vs. 18-19).
4. If indeed the prophet was speaking God's words then they would surely come to pass (vs. 21-22).
5. In almost every instance in the Bible where God spoke through prophets and apostles He would command them to write these things in a book to be read and obeyed (Ex 17:14, 34:27, Is 30:8, Jer 30:2, 36:2, Hab 2:2, Rev 1:11, 10:4, 14:13, 19:9, 21:5).
6. If all prophecy in the N.T. was considered to be infallible and inerrant, why was is not written down and how can a cessationist explain the fact that the Bible says that "all flesh" would experience this kind of phenomena (Joel 2:28-29 & Acts 2:17-18)?

The test for an O.T. prophet cannot apply to N.T. prophets because the command in Deuteronomy was given to a specific people (Israel) for a specific time. If N.T. prophets and prophecy was to be tested after this manner then we can conclude that anyone who was not an Israelite was a phony. But didn't the Corinthians and the Romans obviously manifest these gifts (Rom 12:6 & 1 Co 12)? We know that the churches in Asia and other Gentile regions had these gifts, so why weren't their prophecies enscriptured? How about this for an answer: Because they were not infallible or authoritative. They were men's words communicating God's revelation. I love my cessationist brethren, but the test in Deuteronomy cannot be applied to the N.T. gift of prophecy.